Bebe Taian: October 2013

October 30, 2013

Culture is Not a Costume Pt. 2

See? See what I mean? Don't do this.

Those are actual kurotomesode, a very formal married woman's kimono. The sort of thing that would be worn at weddings or black tie-type events. This was for the opening of a sushi restaurant, apparently. And... just...

They obviously don't know how to wear kimono, but I can't give them a pass. They posted this photo on the internet. Which means they had access to the internet. An internet which literally has thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of videos and step-by-step tutorials on how to wear a kimono! (Each word will take you to a different tutorial, by the way.) You don't even have to know English or Japanese to learn from them. There is literally no excuse to not even get this close to right! It's one thing to need practice, like when a collar slips while wearing it, or not having a certain musubi tied perfectly. But this!

Why on earth are there towels tied to their waists? The collars inside out? The geishaface! Why? This is not cute. It is not funny. It is not nearly accurate. This is orientalism, plain and simple.

October 28, 2013

Culture is Not a Costume

A quick note once again about Halloween costumes: 

Please, please don't go as a geesha girl, or the "samurai geisha princess" or whatever is the new "Japanese" trend this year. Cosplaying an anime character is usually fine, so long as you don't do yellowface or anything like that. Cosplaying a geisha, depending on how well it's done and how you carry it off, maybe. But remember that most geisha don't wear whiteface except for dance performances and on special requests, there's none of this "heart-shaped lip thing", or the two big doll-like dots on the cheeks, or any of that. And no eating utensils in the hair! 

October 27, 2013

For Sale Sunday: WW2-era Kimono, Kaku Obi

I reopened my Etsy page to permanently host listings for my vintage and handmade things. Recent items will still be posted on Ebay, of course. And if you e-mail me, I can definitely combine shipping between sites!

All in all, it's been rough. I was in a car accident which totaled the car, which caused me to lose one well-paying job, and then both DH and I lost our jobs (I had three). And then without a car, I can't get to the third job when they called me for work! Aaugh! So I'm selling off some kimono I absolutely adore, and I'm sure you'll love them, too. :P They're all absolutely perfect, even if some are in less than pristine condition.

WW2-era Burnt Orange Kiku Kimono, approx. 1940s

This komon is from the 1940s, judging by the shorter sleeves and characteristic red lining of the era. Woven into the fabric is a pattern of waves and chrysanthemums in diagonal stripes, a chic and tasteful Autumn design. It seems to be a thick silk/synthetic blend, which was fairly common at the time, but I can't be certain without taking a piece of it apart and doing a burn test. The lining is intact, but there are some stains on the front left panel and inside.

Shoulder to hem: 142.5CM/57IN
Wrist to wrist: 125CM/50IN
Sleeve length: 51.87CM/20.75IN
Body width: 60CM/24IN

 WW2-era Black + Green Synthetic Kimono

This kimono is from the late 1930s or the 1940s, judging by the red lining and short sleeves. The outer fabric is a thin early synthetic, and the lining is silk. Green, white, and black, with mustard and red lining. This kimono has many damages, mostly to the lining. There are one or two on the outside of the kimono, like the moth holes in the sleeve shown. There are more photos, but Etsy only allows five. It is a difficult thing to wear unless you intend to wear a haori over the top to hide the sleeve damage. It is a unique piece of history, however, for the collector.

Shoulder to hem: 59IN/150CM
Wrist to wrist: 49.5IN/126CM
Sleeve length: 20IN/51CM
Body width: 12.25IN/31CM

Unused Vintage Blue Men's Kaku Obi

This is a vintage synthetic formal or semi-formal kaku obi, a type of narrow obi for men's kimono.

Vintage "new" is an item which was manufactured and then didn't sell; it has never been worn. This one is from approximately the early 1990s. The original white wrappers are still on the obi. The blue one is the last one available, so get it while you can!

October 20, 2013

Hasekura Tsunenaga, Edo-Period Explorer

Hasekura - Claude Duret, 1615
Hasekura was a Samurai and retainer of Date Masamune, the daimyo of Sendai.

In the years 1613 through 1620, Hasekura headed a diplomatic mission to the Vatican in Rome, traveling to Mexico (arriving in Acapulco and departing from Veracruz) and visiting various ports-of-call in Europe. This historic mission is called the Keichō Embassy (慶長使節), and follows the Tenshō embassy (天正使節) of 1582. On the return trip, Hasekura and his companions re-traced their route across Mexico in 1619, sailing from Acapulco for Manila, and then sailing north to Japan in 1620.

Hasekura’s journey is astounding in its scope.

He was accompanied by 180 people, one of whom was the European Fransician monk Luis Sotelo. Hasekura and Sotelo are pictured here in a rather sensual fresco in the Sala Regia, Palazzo Quirinale, Rome.


Conversing with Luis Sotelo, 1615.
Hasekura received new names: in France, he was dubbed Dom Philippe Francois Faxicura, In Spain he was baptized Felipe Francisco Hasekura.

Unfortunately, his travels did not lead to establishment of new trading partners but did establish Spain as a threat, and their conversion to Christianity had apparently become an issue due to an interdiction in Sendai. His son and several of his servants were actually put to death due to their refusal to recant their faith.

Hasekura’s trip was expunged after his return, and it was not noted in the official histories of the Edo period. It was not made public until 250 years later in 1909.

Sources: Japan Encyclopaedia - Wikipedia - Civitavecchia

Reposted from Medieval POC, a blog that focuses on people of colour in European art history. (Follow this blog if you want to learn a lot of really cool things and you don't have years to devote to textbooks. Seriously. Here's everything tagged 'Japan', just on MPOC's blog!)

October 19, 2013

Book Review: The Japanese Art of Sex, by Jina Bacarr

Courtesan Writing a Letter - Kitagawa Utamaro
"The Japanese Art of Sex", by Jina Bacarr, is a book I bought long, long ago. (You can search for a cheap copy using the Amazon box on my sidebar, if you like.) As implied, it is of an 'adult' nature, but I was curious.

Really, it wasn't exactly what I expected. I was hoping for historical accounts of protocol, techniques, recipes for various items, and attitudes regarding sex 100-500 years ago, with a focus on courtesans and their upbringing. After all, licensed courtesans often had training to become the best at their jobs, and men paid dearly for them. So what made them so fantastic?

Instead, it really is a sex tip/seduction manual, with some bits and pieces of historical facts thrown in. It isn't a bad book; a little cheesy ("how to seduce the samurai in your bedroom"? really?), but overall, not a bad book if you're just looking to become more sensual overall.

Many of the listed sources are Japanese, by Japanese authors, so I'll try to reserve commentaries about Orientalism and how Asian women are seen in the media for another time. I would have liked to see mostly or only Japanese sources, however. Western media sources can easily get cultural topics wrong.

October 16, 2013

Anime I Love: Witch Hunter Robin

Witch Hunter Robin is an anime I've loved since I first saw it on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup years ago (must have been 2004-ish; I hadn't graduated HS yet). If you liked Darkside Blues, you'd have loved WHR. And honestly, my feelings about the characters and the show have evolved a lot over these past (nearly) ten years.

The story begins with the introduction of the STN-J team, a group of witch hunters in Japan who work in a corporate-office type of environment and who go out to do fieldwork to track down dangerous witches. Each of the members has a unique talent: Robin uses pyrokinesis, Miho uses psychometry, Michael is a master hacker, etc. Robin is the newest member and was transferred from Italy. Because of this her Japanese is a bit strange, although unless you watch the dubbed version you miss some of the jokes regarding that fact. She is, however, an extremely powerful person once she has some training.

These 'witches' are people born with various powers, who are said to become power-obsessed and deranged from using them. In many cases, those who this STN-J team have hunted are murderers, thieves, etc. They do not kill them outright (although a few characters do die), but use special Orbo bullets before the witches are taken by another STN-J unit. They do not know what happens to them; only that the witch is imprisoned where they cannot hurt others.

At first, the series seems to be the Creature of the Week type of story, a new witch hunted in every episode. The pace is slow through the first fifteen episodes or so. But as you pay more attention to how the characters respond to one another and work together, you realise that this slow pace is the natural progression of how real people work together and learn to trust each other. And that trust is paramount; the last episodes reveal why Robin was sent to the STN-J, and why she is the replacement for the last person to leave... and also, the fate of future witches. The ethical debate of people working for the STN with powers vs. people not working for the STN with powers is brought up; there is no difference between "humans" and "witches" who have powers, only how the STN perceives them. The pace of the series at the end is much faster as the heart of the story picks up.

The ending I found unsatisfactory, but it seems fairly standard of Japanese movies. There is no 'wrap-up'; it just... ends, leaving you forever wondering what happened. There are only 26 episodes, so it isn't a long anime (about standard: xxxHolic and Cowboy Bebop were about the same) and it's perfectly watchable within a week or so.

If you don't own a copy, you can always check online, or use my Amazon toolbar on the right to check online for the cheapest copies.

October 15, 2013

The Double

The Double
From Kanjaku, translated by Royall Tyler (Japanese Tales, 1987). Masamichi was a real person who died in 1017, during the Heian era.

Lord Minamoto no Masamichi lived south of Fourth Avenue and west of Muromachi Street in Kyoto. His son, not yet two years old, was playing by himself outside when suddenly Masamichi heard him howl, and there were loud shouts from the nurse looking after him.

Masamichi picked up his sword and ran from the other side of the house to investigate. He found not one but two identical nurses struggling for possession of the boy. Each had hold of an arm and a leg. Clearly one of them must be a fox, though he had no idea which. As he charged, brandishing his sword, one of the nurses vanished.

The other nurse and the boy collapsed on the ground. Masamichi had his servants call in a healer of proven power, and after the healer had worked his rites awhile the nurse came to. At last Masamichi was able to question her.

"I was letting the young master play a little by himself, sir, when a woman I'd never seen before came out of the house and claimed the young master was hers. In fact she tried to take the young master away, and I held on to him to stop her. When you ran up with your sword, she let go and rushed back into the house."

Masamichi was seriously frightened. He never found out whether the double had actually been a fox or some sort of angry spirit. People commented, though, that you just shouldn't let little children play by themselves.

October 14, 2013

Taiiku no Hi 2013: I Joined a Gym

Taiiku no Hi is "Health and Sports Day" in Japan. For a short summary on the holiday's history, please see last years' post. Basically, it is a day for athletic pursuits and exercises.

Last year, I talked about how physical anything basically is horrible to me, *especially* running/jogging, or anything high-intensity. And 'dieting' is just die with a T. And... I really like food. Like pizza, and falafel, and cheese ravioli covered in butter. But this year, I joined a gym.

Actually, I joined a gym almost two months ago. I started going 2-3 times a week, about an hour per visit. I have to learn more about the proper way to use some of the machinery, and better ways to stretch and exercise without the machines, but it's a work in progress. I only recently stopped going so often because one week, I tore my rotator cuff slightly, and it took about four days to heal. After that, I was busy hunting for jobs, and now, I'm carless. But that won't stop me for long! I can still exercise at home, and head up and down the apartment stairs several times a day for cardio. So why did I even join a gym?

I chose my gym after figuring out a few things about my situation:

1) I am not motivated very well when I'm at home. Oh sure, I've got an hour scheduled here to work out... but ooh, look at that baking show! Oh, the cat wants pets. Hey, I should read that article! ... and then the whole day goes by, and no exercise occured. I need to actually join a gym... BUT...

2) It needs to be cheap, and without a serious contract. I have watched my friends get sucked into great-sounding deals over and over again. $10 a month to join! $15 a month to come in! $300 to cancel? What? And some gyms didn't even have her sign papers regarding a cancellation fee. In fact, Gold's Gym was put on the TV News for fraud investigations over that very issue. I looked up the gyms in a reasonable distance, near other places I visit (so I have no excuse not to go), and looked over their offers and contracts. I found one that is only $11/mo, and the cancellation fee is only about $40. There is a once-a-year membership fee of $40. I got a pretty good deal by signing up within the last few days of the month, which knocked some of the fees off my membership.

3) The gym needs to be clean, and it needs to have up-to-date machinery with plenty of padding. I have some pretty extensive stuff going on, and I get exhausted too easily for free weights to be safe to use. The one I go to only opened a few years ago, so I know that all the equipment is relatively new, and it's kept in great shape. All of the machinery is adjustable as well, so there's no such thing as straining to reach a bar or struggling to fit into a seat correctly for assisted situps.

Within just a few weeks of eating right and getting a workout 2-3 times a week, nothing incredibly strenuous, I started to have results. DH and some friends have commented on how my shoulders are shaping up, and my legs look more toned. I started with very low weights and limited myself to 15-20 reps, broken down into 3-4 sets of 5. In fact, I'm still doing those very low weight/high reps combos. I can work up to higher weights or reps when these start becoming too easy for me. I don't do more than 10 minutes on a treadmill. In fact, more than 15 can be detrimental to your workout.

So what can you take away from this? 

When you go to a gym, you have to remind yourself: your only competition is yourself, and no one else. Not the skinny chick on the stair-stepper, not the super-buff guy lifting 10 plates like he's going into a real-life Dragon Ball Z battle, not anyone but YOU. And it takes a long, long time to see results. I don't mean a few weeks. I mean a few months! It can take six months to see an appreciable amount of change in your physique, especially if you're like me, building up muscle... under a layer of fat. So at first, you get bigger in inches (because you have muscle AND fat now), and then eventually you trim down some. Hint: buy stretchy pants.

Don't worry about the weight on the scale. Seriously. I'm in a healthy weight range FINALLY, but I'm still skinnier now and weighing MORE than I did when I weighed less and was fatter. Why? Fat is less dense than muscle, so a pound of fat takes up more room on the body than a pound of muscle does. Don't let health be about a narrow waistline. Even doctors are fatphobic; don't hate yourself if you don't "measure up" in their eyes. Focus on how your heart functions, how high your blood pressure is, how good your circulation and breathing are. Focus on your HEALTH, not the size you wear. Focus on what YOU want to accomplish. Then make a plan that fits you!

Oh look! A field of stuff I'm not going to eat!
And if you do start to work out, don't cut down on calories. You NEED calories to be able to work
out without causing damage to your body. When muscles do not have the nutrients they need to build and heal, you damage yourself more than you help yourself. Make sure you eat a balanced diet, which can come in small changes. It's a bad trainer who tells you to cut down to 1200 calories or something ridiculously low to lose weight. Don't do it! It looks good in the short-term, but it can really mess up your long-term metabolism, causing you to gain fat because your body thinks there's a famine going on. It took me years to reset my body. Trust me: I've done the starvation route, months and months on 800 calories or less with a full workload, sometimes walking/biking up to 10 miles a day while keeping on my feet at work. It is NOT healthy, no matter WHAT your current weight is.

I don't like bunny food. I just don't, okay? And no vegan cooking show will ever make me like eating a salad that isn't covered in way too much Catalina or Caesar dressing. But what I WILL do is eat thin-crust pizza with more veggies in it. I'll drink more miso soup, and eat plenty more hijiki. I will make falafel more often (beans, onions, spices, mixed into a paste and fried before being dipped in yoghurt/dill/cucumber sauce. ADDICTIVE!). I can have a ham + turkey sandwich, hold the mayo, upgrade to better mustard. I still eat chocolate, just less of it. Ain't no point in denying yourself the foods you love. You might get hit by a bus tomorrow! You don't know! That piece of cheesecake might be the last piece of cheesecake you ever savor. So ENJOY food, ALL foods, healthy or not! Just watch the balance of foods that give you nourishment vs. foods that don't help you.

Changing your attitudes about self-worth, nutrition, dieting, and increasing physical activity can do wonders for a person. You get to meet new people, try new recipes, and push your own limits! Just find out what your needs and goals are, make a plan, and prioritize sticking to it. You can do it!

October 13, 2013

For Sale Sunday: Wedding Accessories, Yukata

For Sale Sunday is here again! This time, it's wedding accessories, yukata sets, and some assorted other things. On Ebay, I can easily combine shipping on all items if you pay for everything at once or send an invoice request. I do ship overseas, even though from America it can be expensive.

A dusty pink silk haori with fans, waves, and flower patterns. 

It was probably worn for tea ceremony, considering the soft tones and traditional patterns. It's a late Showa piece, probably mid-late 80s or maybe the early 90s (Heisei) at the newest. Back lining is white.

There are some spots and one tiny hole on the inside, which you can see in the photos I posted. The himo need to be replaced, but I do sell beaded haori himo which are one of a kind!

Hakoseko wallets! These are modern deadstock and have never been used.

They are synthetic chirimen, and are double-sided. So, the blue/pink one is mostly pink on the back and blue at the bottom, reverse of what is shown in the photo. Only the pale pink/green one has a white accessory. Normally these are worn for weddings, but they can be used at many occasions. They are worn tucked into the front of the kimono at the chest, and usually hold tissues or cards or somesuch. A hakoseko is essentially three folded flip-panels, which sometimes have a mirror in them, but these do not.

Purple rose yukata/easy hanhabi obi set, perfect for conventions, festivals, and around-the-house wearing.

Yukata are washable cotton kimono, and the synthetic easy-obi makes them a cinch to put on. The yukata is a bit wrinkled in the photo from having just been washed, but I'll be sure to iron it before it leaves here.

There are a few small damages, like a spot where the dye is a little off-coloured at the bottom hem (bluish instead of purple, but the blue matches the roses. Maybe the dye didn't take all the way?) There is an upper body lining that has an unfinished edge as well, but it looks like that's how it originally came. The rich, dark purple is more of a royal purple colour than in the photos, but for some reason, synthetic purple dyes photograph as blue.

The hanhaba obi just wraps around the waist twice and ties in back. Be sure to hide the string inside the obi! Then you put the bow on behind you with the wire insert. All done! No need for tying it yourself.

Only the waist-panel can be washed. Since it's synthetic, I recommend hand-washing in cold water. The bow cannot be washed because I think there is a cardboard stiffener in it, keeping the bow's shape. It should not get wet, although it may be possible to spot-clean it. 

October 12, 2013

Coveted Kimono: October Kitsuke

I love October. It's probably my favourite month! The smell in the air changes, pumpkins become plentiful and cheap, there's pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks... oh yeah, and everything turns to red, brown, and gold. At least, it does when you're not in Florida.

In October, it is decidedly awase weather in Japan. Ocher yellows, golds, deep brown-red (like azuki beans), maroons, wisteria purples, and black are in fashion. It's the month of chrysanthemums, and maple leaves, gingko, fall motifs, sutras, and court-scene patterns are all in style. And of course, because of all the fall festivals, anything associated with those can also be worn (like rice patterns, grapes, etc.). Monochrome outfits with a few accents seem to be the popular thing.

Ichiroya, as always, has some beautiful clothes to wear. This month, I think a brilliant outfit would be similar to this:

Mustard-yellow iromuji with sayagata woven patterns in chirimen silk; hallmarks of the season, and wearable well into November, which is the perfect month. Still, it's fashionable to look forward a few weeks to a new season, especially with a versatile kimono such as this.

It would be especially splendid to wear to a small, intimate gathering, like a tea ceremony or a relaxed, somewhat mid-range/upscale Japanese restaurant with friends. With only one crest, it is a semi-formal kimono, and can be dressed slightly down with a Nagoya obi, or slightly up with a fukuro obi.

This kimono in particular is being sold as handicraft material, but if you intend to practice kitsuke and you are a crafter, you may as well try this. The stains seem to not show up well in photos, so it may work for a modelling basis, if not for regular wear.

To keep with an almost monochrome feeling, try this shioze silk obi, which is more deadleaf tan with a country pattern.

If you look closely, it has hints of mustards and golds in it, while keeping with the autumn feel. There are also small blue kikyo in the pattern, which are for late Summer/early Fall, making this one more versatile through the July-October period. Strawberries and hagi allude to the dying of the sweet Summer days, while waiting for the coming coolness through the warm afternoons.

Because this obi has many other hints of colour in it, you could reasonably pair it with any of them and it would still work. Anything from cool, shadowy greens to warm, deep rose pinks, or royal blue could carry just as well.

In this case, if I paired these two together, I would probably use either a deep blue chirimen obiage which only shows a hint (such as my maple obiage) and a white/blue variagated obijime, or plain white obiage with some gold and shibori patterns, with a yellow/white variagated obijime.

These auctions only last a few days on Ebay, but since they are posted by Ichiroya, if it does not sell, they may relist on Ebay or on their website. Take a look! They're very inexpensive right now.

October 10, 2013

Getting a Custom Yukata

Buying yukata (a washable cotton kimono) can be difficult if you are outside of Japan and can't read Japanese well enough to use a service like Noppin or Rakuten. It can be even harder if you are taller than 5'3" or have a chest or hip measurement larger than, say, 34". So, most of us. The solution, of course, is to get a custom-made yukata.

But do you want to sew one yourself? You could. There are quite a few books on the subject (mostly only in Japanese, but a few tutorials in English online). They have lots of photos to follow, and most of the pieces are rectangular... but that can be time-consuming and difficult if you're a beginner. I'm still working on my chuya obi in my spare time, and it's only halfway done... 30 labour hours later.

Or you could just order a custom-made work from a professional kimono seamstress. KimonoPoncho is such a store, run by Tanaka Yukiko. She also sells lots and lots of kimono-making supplies, so if you are making your own and want proper things, check her out!

These yukata are reasonably priced, especially for a custom-tailoured item. I frequently see yukata in the $300-400 range on Japanese websites, more if they are designer works which are tailoured for the person. Think about it: the price of fabric (in America, cotton fabric often goes for $6-15 a yard), plus thread and other materials that get used or worn out ($5 or so), plus a minimum wage to make it... and all of these are again, keeping in mind American price standards in a country (Japan) where things cost much more than they do here,  $150 on average for her kimono is a very good deal.

On a personal note, I can't wait to buy obishin from her! I have so, so much fabric in desperate need of being something other than a dust-gathering heap. I've been having a difficult time finding something with *quite* the right stiffness/flexibility ratio. At $1.50/metre, I can make a new obi for under $30! And before anyone asks, no, I wasn't paid to write this. Actually Tanaka-san doesn't know who I am at all. But her shop's been in my bookmarks for weeks now, and I'm so happy that I can get what I need to finish my projects without having to guess about shipping and whatnot like on Rakuten... so maybe you'll enjoy her shop, too!

October 7, 2013

Astride the Corpse

Astride the Corpse
From Konjaku Monogatarishuu, translated by Royall Tyler (Japanese Tales, 1987)

A man once abandoned his wife of many years and left her so grief-stricken that she fell ill and died. Alas, since the poor woman had no parents and no close friends there was no one to take her body. She just lay where she was. The neighbours who peeped in through a crack were frightened to see that her hair did not fall out and her bones stayed firmly knit together; and when they noticed that there was always a light in the house, and a sound of groaning, they got so afraid that they ran away.

The husband felt half dead with fear when he heard about all this. "How am I to avoid the ghost's curse?" he wondered. "She died hating me and she's bound to get me." In his difficulty he sought help from a ying-yang diviner.

The diviner agreed that this was a bad situation, but he promised to do his best. "Please be aware, though," he cautioned, "that the procedure is really terrifying. I want you to understand that clearly at the outset."

At sundown the diviner led the husband to the corpse's house. Just listening from the outside was enough to make the husband's hair stand on end, and the thought of going in was really more than he could bear, but under the diviner's guidance he went in after all. It was true: his wife's hair was still in place and her skeleton was still intact. The diviner sat him down on the skeleton's back, gave him the hair to hold, and warned him at all costs not to let go of it. Then he read some spells, announced he would have to leave, and reminded the husband again to expect a terrifying experience. The husband, more dead than alive, was left alone astride the corpse clutching its hair.

Darkness fell. In the middle of the night the corpse suddenly said, "Oof! What a weight!" Then it stood up and began to run around. "Now to go look for that brute!" it went on, and charged off. The husband never let go of the hair, and the corpse eventually returned to the house and lay down again. There are no words to describe the husband's terror, but he kept hold of the hair and stayed on the corpse till the cocks began to crow and the corpse fell silent.

At dawn the diviner came back. Having made sure the husband really had kept hold of the hair, he read some more spells over the corpse, then took the husband outside and told him he had nothing more to fear. The husband thanked him with tears of gratitude. Nothing ever did happen to him.

This happened not all that long ago, because the husband's grandchildren are supposed to be alive still, and so are the diviner's.

October 6, 2013

狐狗狸さん (Kokkuri-san)

It's a bit late tonight, but I spent the day watching Japanese horror films. One of them is Kokkuri.

Kokkuri-san is a game that crops up in quite a few anime and J-horror movies. You probably have seen Kokkuri-san in the semi-popular movie Kokkuri or in xxxHolic as "Angel-san". It's known by a lot of different names, and seems to get a new one every few years.

The current incarnation stems from the import of the Ouija board: a large piece of paper with the hirigana alphabet, numbers, yes/no, and a torii gate drawn on it, which is manipulated with a coin or some small object (or three fingers close together). The old version has many variations, but one may be three ohashi propped up against one another in a rice bowl (an offering to the dead; why you should never stand your chopsticks in your rice). Then, a chopstick will move to indicate an answer.

狐(ko fox) 狗 (ku dog) 狸 (ri raccoon or tanuki) さん (san in this case, a gender-neutral honorary suffix, like Mr. or Mrs.). The magic and trickery of a fox, the loyalty of a dog, and the tanuki, a bringer of fortune, all in one spirit-game. Like Ouija (literally, yes-yes), it is said that if you fail to play the game properly, you can become possessed or have ghosts wandering about, following you and bringing you harm. Because you summoned them, and they cannot leave; one also presumes that no one fed this ghost or gave it something for showing up, and it's bad manners to not at least offer a guest some tea.

I think the paper version of this game is the most popular now, probably because it gives better 'answers'.

To play:

Make a brand-new Kokkuri sheet each time. It has a torii gate, letters of the alphabet, yes/no, numbers, and sometimes entrance/exit. The layout is different each time. Sometimes it's the letters in a big circle around the torii; others, it's a hirigana chart. I made one for reference (it's in Japanese, though). I made this one large enough to print, I think, but make sure to set it to fit your paper layout.

Then, gather at least one other friend. Traditionally, it should be three people. Open a window or door to the outside so that the spirits attracted by Kokkuri-san can join you. The torii represented on the paper is the gateway from the spiritual world, too. Everyone must place their finger on a 10-yen coin, or put an index finger from each person in a very tight circle, careful not to break their connection (this is why a coin is much easier!) over the torii to begin.

Call the spirit by asking "Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, if you are here, please move this coin!" This may take a few tries. Once Kokkuri-san has made it's (their?) presence known, you can ask them questions. The answers will be spelled out, so maybe another person has paper and pencil handy? But keep in mind that tanuki and foxes are tricksters, either to teach or to tease, so don't always take it so seriously... but also be open to an answer you don't like. 

At last, ask Kokkuri-san to leave by saying, "Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, please return home!" You might want to thank them, to encourage them not to stick around out of spite. After all, they did take their time to come. The coin should move to yes or 'exit'. If it does not, be more firm. Or, you know, call an exorcist. 

It is customary to destroy the paper once Kokkuri-san has left, destroying the connection back into this world. After all, you shut the gate after the guest has left! Then, you must spend the coin used the next day, or preferably, the same day. Perhaps on a protective amulet against ghosts?

Of course, it is a superstitious game. The famous Dr. Yokai explained it himself, although he attributed the game's "working" to 'human electricity', supposedly. Maybe human subconscious spirit or intentions? Inoue Enryou was a famous Buddhist during the mid-late 1800s, and lived through the beginning of the 20th century, when Kokkuri-san first started becoming adapted to Ouija-style. Of course, this style of writing-game has been around for thousands of years, with first written records mentioning them in China near 1100CE, but at the time, Western things were popularised in Japan, giving us the Kokkuri-san we know today.

October 4, 2013

食欲の秋: Autumn is the Season for Eating

"Shokuyoku no aki."

Now is perhaps the most delicious time of the year. The cold soups of summer have passed, and the salt and rice days of deep winter are still a long way off. That means rich, hearty Autumn food! Officially, the season started in September, but here in FL it's still nice and hot. But then, when does that ever change? We could wear sha all year!

Gingko in Autumn
If you're looking for a snack, persimmons (kaki) and Tanba chestnuts are premium. Persimmon is used for dye, preserving paper, and it also makes a delicious dish when sliced and eaten raw. It's no wonder that this fruit is a Japanese favourite!

Gingko is also beautifully in season, with the trees turning bright yellow-gold! Gingko is a reference to longevity, so be sure to have at least a little! Roasted gingko nuts with the pulp removed (ginnan) are a delicacy and an old remedy for indigestion. They are said to be useful for improving memory and brain function. Make sure you get the freshest gingko possible, as old or expired gingko and whole gingko seeds won't help and might even be harmful. If you'd like to read more about this awesome plant in reference to Japanese culture, I suggest this essay at the Japanese American National Museum's page.

With all of the delicious things ripe in this part of the year (eggplants, pumpkins...), it's hard to try them all. But maybe you'll find room for just a little of these this year... Happy eating!

October 3, 2013

The Rooted Corpse

The Rooted Corpse
From Uji Shuui Monogatari, translated by Royall Tyler (Japanese Tales, 1987).

The elder of two sisters was married and lived in the mistress's apartment toward the back of her late father's mansion. The younger had served for a time in a noble household but now lived at home. She had no husband or accepted lover, only occasional, casual visitors whom she saw in her room at the front of the house, by the double doors in the west wing. The house was near the crossing of Takatsuji and Muromachi streets in Kyoto.

At the age of twenty-seven the younger sister fell ill and died. Her body was left in her room, since there seemed to be nowhere else for her in the house, till her older sister and the rest of the household took her off to the burning ground at Toribeno.

They were about to unload the coffin from the carriage, in preparation for the usual funeral rites, when they noticed that it was oddly light and that the lid was ajar. Why, the body was gone! This was a shocking discovery. The body could not possibly have fallen out on the way, but they retraced their steps to make sure. Of course, they found nothing. But on reaching the house they thought they might as well check the room by the double doors. There she was, lying there as though she had never been moved!

The night wore on while the mourners discussed anxiously what to do. At dawn they put the body back in the coffin and carefully sealed the lid, then waited for night and another chance to proceed with the cremation. But at nightfall they again found the coffin open and were really terrified this time. The body was lying as before by the double doors, and it defeated every attempt to get it back where it belonged. They simply could not budge it. They might as well have tried to move a rooted tree.

There she was, and apparently that was where she was meant to stay. "That's what you want, is it?" one level-headed mourner finally said to the corpse. "You like it here? All right, then this is where we'll leave you. But we are going to have to get you out of sight, you know!"

They took up the floor, and she was light as a feather when they lowered her through the hole. So they buried her under the floor and built a good-sized mound over her. Then the family and servants all moved away, since no one wanted to stay on in the same house with a corpse. Over the years the house fell to ruin and eventually disappeared.

For some reason, not even the common people seemed to be able to live near the mound. People claimed that awful things happened there. As a result, the mound stood all alone, without a single hut for forty or fifty feet around it. In time a shrine was built on top of it, for one reason or another, and they say the shrine is still there.

October 2, 2013

Casual Kitsuke: Striped Komon

DH ended up feeling pretty excited this weekend, so we went out to take photos. It was a Fox Wedding day- too bad I didn't have a kitsune mask! But the camera died once and for all, so we ended up using his phone camera.

A Fox Wedding day is when it's raining while the sun is shining, a pretty common thing in Florida. It was brilliantly blue out, then dark and cloudy, then blue again, threatening to rain all day... Much windier downtown than in my part of the city! If I'd expected that, I'd have brought clips or something for my hair.

This time, I have a wool komon worn without proper juban (omg so hot out why), yukata-style. I kept with a plain mustard-yellow nagoya obi to drop the formality level, since I didn't have a hanhaba and I think the otaiko simply looks better. The shibori obiage in purple since the blue didn't quite work out, and although shibori is somewhat formal, I didn't have a less-formal option to work with. The wide casual obijime patterned with silver was tied so that mostly the purple showed, using a vintage brooch as an obidome. I love the brooch element in particular! It was so sparkly in person! Keeping with the casual feel, standard silver/black sandals were worn, with high black socks.

A lot of shots were taken, but only a few were fairly good. I think we'll be reading tutorials on how to take better photos this week and try again soon. I also need to do something with my hair to balance out the wider lines of kimono. I have a fairly small face paired with broad shoulders, so I always look visually unbalanced. I might braid it to get it poofy and do something with it next time. I'm also making a list of outfits and locations that aren't too far to drive to for photos.

Anyone have suggestions on better photos? Keep in mind that I have no funds to replace the camera anytime soon, so camera phone it is...

October 1, 2013

Anime I Love: xxxHolic

One of my most-beloved anime series is xxxHolic, by the ever-famous and infinitely talented CLAMP. CLAMP is the group of women behind classics like X/1999 and Magic Knights Rayearth.  

xxxHolic in anime form is only slightly tied in with the animated version of Tsubasa and Card Captor Sakura, so if you don't know either of these stories well (I don't), you can still follow the anime quite easily.  Tsubasa and xxxHolic tie together again for the movie-length ending to the anime series. Honestly, I love the anime version and the manga version for different reasons, and they are very different from each other in content (as opposed to, say, Black Butler, which is virtually identical to the manga version). The manga is a bit more morose, sorrowful, and introspective. It's quite a powerful story. The anime, however, is mostly light-hearted and funny.

Like any obake/yokai story, it's full of Japanese superstition mixed with modern and foreign ideas; however, I think it stays somewhat true to Japanese superstitions, which I enjoy. Japanese ghost stories are very creative, and the yokai are imaginative and varied, unlike how some Christianised European culture has distilled them all down to mere minions of Satan hiding in bushes or something.

Watanuki, our main character, is a whiny, over-reactive teenage boy with a talent: he can interact (and see) yokai/demons/spirits. It is a talent he hates. He lives alone, as both of his parents have died. By fate, he meets Yuuko, the Dimensional Witch (it's a rough translation, I think). She is a granter of wishes; you cannot see her shop unless you deeply desire to have a wish granted. Watanuki becomes indentured to her for an indefinite period of time in order to buy his ability to never see yokai again.

Along the way, he must learn a lot about people, about the nature of yokai and spirits, wish-granting, and all sorts of things. Naturally, he is forced to become aligned with a person who he doesn't really care for and views as competition, but the 'competition' has no ill-will towards Watanuki. And the ever-cute Himawari is totally clueless and has no idea that Watanuki is freaking out about liking her half the time. Yuuko and I have much the same attitude about life and people, so maybe it helps me love it even more...

Sadly, the series only lasts 24 episodes plus the movie, so it never has a chance to get into why Yuuko is bothering to teach Watanuki the things she is instead of simply hiring him as a maid or somesuch. For that, you'll have to read the manga, which is absolutely wonderful. But really, I suggest you see both- the colour and brightness of the anime, the seiyuu, it's just... <3 And how in-depth the manga gets! It's so worth it! For those of us who don't have $150 to just rush out and buy a series, may I recommend reading it online? It's addictive! Don't start this on your lunch break!